Start the New Year off right in Chicago

This weekend’s newspaper column from The Daily Journal (Kankakee, Ill.) and The Times (Ottawa, Ill.)

Start the New Year off right in Chicago


Jan. 7, 2012

The holidays are over (according to the Gregorian calendar) and the end of the world is nigh (according to the Mayan one).

But in between now and Dec. 21 – the day when the Mayan calendar runs out of, well, days – there’s still plenty going on, especially up in Chicago.

Now, I wouldn’t say I’m particularly concerned about Armageddon arriving this December – no matter what the might have crunched down in ancient Mexico – but I suppose you might still want to live it up a bit in 2012.

You know, just in case.

And if you do, here are a few fun ways to start the New Year right in the Windy City this month. You can thank me later that none include watching a John Cusack disaster flick.

Skate in the sky

This past Tuesday afternoon while walking through the Loop, I stared with amusement as a man strolled past me while carrying an ice cream cone in each hand.

It was 23 degrees at the time.

I suppose the cones didn’t melt, at least.

So far this winter, Chicago’s mild temperatures – which returned again on Wednesday – have pleased most city-dwellers, except perhaps those wanting to ice skate. On Jan. 1, however, a remedy for the warm weather arrived when the John Hancock Observatory opened its “Skating in the Sky” for a second season.

Through April 8, visitors to the Hancock Center’s 94th floor can skate on a synthetic indoor rink perched more than 1,000 feet above Michigan Avenue. Billed as the “highest skating rink in the world,” the venue offers unobstructed views of Lake Michigan and the city. A 25-minute skating session costs $5, on top Hancock’s general $15 admission for ages 12 and up and $10 for ages 3 to 11. Skate rental is available for $1. For hours and additional information, Visit

Or skate at Wrigley

For years, Carlos Zambrano skated on thin ice at Wrigley Field. Now that he’s finally gone, if you’d like to imitate him by doing the same – on thicker ice – the Rink at Wrigley Field is again open through Feb. 26. But, please, leave the water coolers in peace.

Located at Clark and Waveland, the rink costs $5 for adults and $3 for children on weekdays and $10 for adults and $6 for children on Friday, Saturdays and Sundays. Skate rental is available. For hours and additional information, visit

Live high-brow

At one million square feet, the Art Institute of Chicago (111 S. Michigan Ave.) is the second largest art museum in the U.S. behind only the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

And from now through Feb. 10, it’s free for all Illinois residents to explore it on weekdays. That’s a savings of up to $18 per visitor, so if your resolution was to class things up in 2012, there’s probably no better time to get started than during the next month. For more information, visit

Or laugh low-brow

If high art isn’t your thing, then perhaps silly humor is.

If so, Chicago has it for you this month.

The 11th annual Chicago Sketch Comedy Festival is the nation’s largest and runs Jan. 5-15 at Stage 773 at 1225 W. Belmont Ave.

The festival began in 2000 with 33 sketch groups and now features 138, selected from 250 local, national and international entrants by a panel of judges. Last year, 10,000 fans from around the globe attended the eight days of shtick in the heart of Chicago’s Lakeview neighborhood. To purchase tickets and get additional information, visit